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Published: 2009/03/30
by Brian Robbins

Piety Street John Scofield

Emarcy Records

Hallelujah!

If 2001’s The Word – a super session featuring the North Mississippi Allstars, John Medeski, and a just-discovered Robert Randolph blew the roof off the genre of “rock gospel,” then stand by for another explosion. John Scofield’s new Piety Street is probably best described as “jazz rock gospel” and if there was such a genre prior to now, the roof is somewhere in outer space.

Piety Street is all about heart and soul and how could it not be? Listen to Scofield’s core Piety Street Band lineup: Bonnie Raitt band mates John Cleary (keys and vocals) and Ricky Fataar (drums) along with bassist George Porter, Jr. (Funky Meters, PBS). Good Lord. Add in the talents of two of New Orleans’ finest, John Boutte (vocals) and percussionist Shannon Powell, and you can’t help but throw your hands in the air and swang that thang.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever see Sunday morning sunlight streaming in through stained glass windows or not, Piety Street will grab ahold of you with its groove. John Cleary couldn’t order a cheeseburger at a McDonald’s drive-up without sounding soulful and Porter, Fataar, and Powell keep the heartbeat funky. John Boutte’s vocals are silk compared to Cleary’s from-the-core burlap, but just as powerful in their own way. (Check out their duet on “Something’s Got A Hold On Me.”)

And then there’s the Reverend Scofield, preaching to us with his Ibanez. Piety Street is chock full of the blues, but there are jazz flavorings throughout and it all works. Sco weaves his guitar with Cleary’s mournful vocal on “Walk with Me”, while “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” treats us to a reading from the Book of Wah Pedal. Got the blues, brother? The Reverend Sco will wash them away with a B.B. King-like sweetly-stinging lead on “Motherless Child” and then the Piety Street Band will swaddle you in an impromptu reggae jam at the song’s end. Fear not “The Angel Of Death” as Scofield’s tremolo guitar takes our hand and leads us through the darkness and out the other side. And his work on the album closer “I’ll Fly Away” sounds deceptively simple at first until you really listen and take in all the various ingredients in the mix and realize the Ibanez is speaking in tongues.

John Scofield plays guitar like Dean Moriarty drove in “On The Road” even when he appears to be pushing the edge and out there, he’s in complete control and totally cool. On Piety Street, Scofield and his band mates mesh perfectly to take us to a new place that’s fun, soulful, and funky.

Take the ride.

Hallelujah!

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